August 22, 2012

First day - a bright new beginning

"I thought this was the year we stopped hovering in the classroom on the first day," says my friend, Sheri, as we follow our now 2nd grade sons into a classroom brimming with students, parents, and little siblings.

I laugh with Sheri in spite of myself.  I am in complete agreement about taking a step back from the last-minute primping and hugs of 1st grade.  Halfway through last year Ryken was already sprinting the last 50 feet to his open classroom and hardly remembering a "Bye, Mommy" before disappearing completely from my view.  My kid has been ready to cut the proverbial cut for quite some time.

My baby is now a 2nd grader.  Excuse me while I regain my composure...

The one thing that keeps me in the class longer this morning is, without a doubt, Ryken's food allergies.  Last year we had the luxury of connecting with Ryken's 1st grade teachers early enough to meet with them before the year began and have agreement on a game plan for how to keep him safe.  With the kids and me out of town until a few days before the new year began, I could only email his dual immersion teachers about his allergies and precautions.  I hadn't discussed Ryken's needs in person. I was able to submit his Food Allergy Action Plan and medication to the school nurse to the school two days before the year began but no luck in talking to the teachers who were busy getting their classrooms ready.  I did talk to one of the administrative assistants who told me she had just printed up new "Peanut-Free" signs for Ryken's classrooms and the designated lunch table.  It was good to know that the greater school community was gearing up for his return.

With a class kit of medication and forms in one hand and wet wipes in another, I walked Ryken into the classroom.  As expected, he excitedly rushed in ahead of me (thank goodness, he LOVES school!) to look for his assigned seat.  When I had finally been able to get a moment in front of the teacher, I quickly introduced myself to Ryken's English teacher and explained Ryken's food allergies as I handed over the stash.  The teacher recognized me immediately and cheerfully told me, "We are going to have kids wash their hands everyday.  We've bought a huge bottle of soap already but unfortunately Mrs. T (the Spanish teacher) wasn't been able to check it yet.  So these <wet wipes> will come in handy today but after today we will be washing!"

I swear, I think I heard music streaming through the windows!

I was really pleased with the immediate recognition and proactive stance on heading off food particles in the classroom, not to mention germs and viruses.  Clearly last year's teachers, this year's teachers, and the school staff were fully aware of Ryken's food allergies and discussed what has worked.  In my letter to Ryken's 2nd grade teachers I wrote about this as a helpful compromise since I understood that my first choice, whole-class hand-washing, would take away from precious instructional time.  I'm so grateful that the 2nd grade team has stepped up the hygiene!  Last year the 1st grade teachers gave out wet wipes after lunch to combat food particles from coming into contact with shared classroom materials. 

Today was only the first of many (180?) days of this school year but it's reassuring to know we are off to the right start.  And we families of food-allergic children could use all the support we can get, right?  I am hopeful that Ryken is in the capable hands of supportive and protective educators.

If your kids with food allergies are back in school, how have the first days been for you? 

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